Soybean herbicide update Despite an uncertain grower commitment to biotech beans, new products, programs and rebates that target your Roundup-built acres charge ahead.

Chemical competitors of Monsanto watched sprayers ramble over 38 million acres of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans last spring, and their phone calls must have poured into St. Louis as fast as more Roundup flowed into bulk tanks.

Most chemical companies have adopted a variation of the philosophy "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and signed deals to sell Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate in one form or another. Monsanto, apparently just as quick to cut such deals, has now locked in added revenue that could have been lost once Roundup's patent expires in October.

Why care? Because if you're seeding these biotech beans, you may find reduced weed-control costs with some scouting effort on your part, because competitors are still competing, even if the products they peddle are basically the same. And the deals are not just limited to products solely for RR beans.

"Look for a very competitive market this year, in which the clear winner is the American soybean farmer," says Chuck Kiefer, director of marketing for Cenex/Land 'O Lakes Agronomy Company. "In this oversupplied market, we're beginning to see more and more rebate programs aimed at gaining a grower's business, and this benefits his bottom line."

Despite the debate over genetically modified (GM) crops (see our story on page 68), Kiefer shares early indications that we'll see the same amount of biotech soybeans planted as last year. "That's why we're seeing soybean herbicide pricing flat to slightly down, with several basic manufacturers using growers' rebates as a marketing tool. They want their products either in that Roundup tank or on that Roundup acre," he says. "And they're also bundling seed and crop protection purchases together to help move these biotech soybeans, and corn as well."

But no matter the RR soybean acreage, one point Kiefer drives home is a passionate plea for everyone to "eliminate the use of the activist slang 'GMO' due to its negative connotation with consumers." He suggests calling them "biotech crops."

More Roundup Monsanto has cut deals with eight other chemical companies to sell a generic glyphosate formulation. Aiming at keeping its own herbicides used on its Roundup-built acres, it also offers a new product for 2000 called Roundup UltraMAX. But if you're expecting improved weed control, its efficacy is the same as Roundup Ultra.

"We're introducing this UltraMAX formulation because it contains 25% more active ingredient so growers can spray more acres with fewer containers, giving them added handling convenience that they are telling us they desire," says Bart Baudler, north central region marketing manager for Monsanto.

UltraMAX also contains exclusive TranSorb technology that the company claims enhances plant uptake, translocation and rainfastness. Cost of this new formulation, according to Baudler, will run you about $0.25 more per acre than Roundup Ultra. Quantities will be limited. For more information, call 800/Roundup.

Monsanto is keeping the price of Roundup Ultra flat this year, for both the product and the tech fee. Ultra will remain in the $10/acre range (for the 32-oz. rate), with the same seed premium technology fee of $6.50/unit of seed. The seed premium is not charged by Monsanto for the NK brand or Pioneer brand RR soybeans, nor are they covered under Monsanto's Technology Value Package (TVP) program.

The only pricing change for Ultra comes in the form of a rebate program. Growers who buy specific preestablished volumes of RR soybeans combined with RR corn or YieldGard corn can earn a discount and are entered into a sweepstakes for cash or prizes. "For instance, if a grower orders more than 750 units of Roundup Ready soybeans plus more than 60 unitsof either corn product they'll get $8/gal. back in a rebate," Baudler adds.

Monsanto's TVP rewards program has a few changes for 2000. The company provided benefits to more than 32,000 registered growers in 1999 (up from 10,000 the previous year) who faced unexpected weed flushes or crop loss or had to replant due to severe weather. "This year the program extends to provide warehoused seed protection, plus we're eliminating the second tech fee payment [which was rebated last year] when repurchasing Roundup Ready soybeans to replant following a crop loss due to hail, flood or other unexpected event," Baudler says.

Zeneca counters The other herbicide that received late spring approval in 1999 for application over the top of RR soybeans, Touchdown from Zeneca is countering Monsanto's program for 2000. "We're kicking off our Touchdown Assurance Program (TAP), which mirrors Monsanto's TVP program, but we'll include all Roundup Ready soybeans in our program which Monsanto doesn't," says Bill Beutke, North America brand lead for Zeneca. "We also have a rebate and sweepstakes program similar to Monsanto's program, but our qualifications are easier and more simple; growers can get a $5/gal. rebate by simply planting 100 acres worth of any Roundup Ready soybean variety and using Touchdown." For more information, call 800/759-2500.

Expect to see an escalating marketing shoot-out between Monsanto and Zeneca over whether Roundup or Touchdown is more effective, according to industry watchers. "While growers will see a slightly quicker burn down with Touchdown, we have seen no significant differences in weed-control efficacy between these two products," Cenex's Kiefer says.

New glyphosate options Roundup-like products (glyphosate) will be available from numerous sources this year. All companies claim that their products offer equal efficacy to Roundup or Roundup Ultra and will be priced slightly lower. Check with your local retailer regarding what brand(s) they might carry.

Here is the latest roster as of mid-January.

Cheminova, a company that specializes in generic herbicides and insecticides, offers two formulations for 2000: Glyfos (no surfactant) and Glyfos X-tra (contains surfactants). Both are registered for use on RR soybeans and RR corn. For more information, call 800/548-6113.

BASF will market Acquire for the first time in 2000, which is glyphosate without surfactant. For more information, call 800/669-1770.

Micro Flo, a specialty chemical company owned by BASF, also will sell a glyphosate product without surfactant called GlyFlo. For more information, call 800/451-8461.

Dow AgroSciences will offer two new formulations for 2000: Glyphomax (straight glyphosate) and Glyphomax Plus (includes surfactants). For more information, call 800/208-4094.

Nufarm, a leading global producer of phenoxy herbicides, is entering its second season of glyphosate sales with Credit (contains surfactants) and Debit TMF (straight glyphosate) herbicides. For more information, call 800/852-5234.

More for 2000 Kiefer reminds growers to keep a watchful eye on new rebate programs in the coming months that may save them another $1 to $2/acre. "Similar to how the auto industry uses rebates when they need to move product on a temporary basis, we're seeing similar trends this year in the crop protection and biotech seed businesses," he says.

American Cyanamid. As we wrote in our December issue (page 26), Am Cy offers two new EPA-registered premixes containing the company's popular soybean herbicides with glyphosate for use on RR soybeans. The Midwest-targeted herbicide called Extreme features the active ingredient (a.i.) in Pursuit, whereas the southern Midwest and Mid-South product called Backdraft uses the same a.i. found in Scepter.

The company claims that Extreme, applied at a rate of 3 pints/acre (which is equal to 4 oz./acre of Pursuit and 24 oz./acre of glyphosate) reduces the need for a second glyphosate application.

Cost of the 3-pint rate is approximately $13/acre. For more information, check out www.extremecontrol.com that features a live shot of an Argentina soybean field where the product is at work, with links to updates on South American weather.

Backdraft, applied at a rate of 2 qt./acre (which equals 2.8 oz./acre of Scepter and 20 oz./acre of glyphosate) is to be used as a burn-down treatment at planting, followed by a planned post application of glyphosate.

Cyanamid also announced price reductions for 2000. A gallon of Raptor has been reduced 28%, giving it a current price of approximately $14/acre. And Squadron's gallon price will be $6.65 lower.

BASF. Although BASF will market two new herbicide names for 2000, the components are already familiar. In an effort to "cool the burn" of Blazer on soybeans, the company offers a new formulation called Ultra Blazer. "Our new Ion-Charged Technology changes the behavior of Blazer, while maintaining the same rates, label and weed-control efficacy," says Chuck Kupatt, soybean market manager for BASF.

"What it basically does is add more selectivity on soybeans, providing less phytotoxicity than Cobra or equal to Flexstar," he says. "And when used as a tankmix partner, growers can use less AMS with Ultra Blazer on weeds like velvetleaf," he says.

Although the price for this EPA-registered product had not been released as of early January, Kupatt says it won't be that much different than the price of Blazer. He expects Ultra Blazer to run $4.50 to $5/acre for the 8 to10 oz./acre rate.

Growers in the southern part of the Midwest familiar with Conclude Xtra from BASF will see it fazed out after 2000, to be replaced by the company's new co-pak product Conclude Xact, expected to receive EPA registration before application season in 2000.

It's a two-compartment jug containing a new concentrated formula of Poast on one side and Storm herbicide (active ingredients from Basagran and Blazer) on the other side.

"We're changing to a different active ingredient for grass control (from Select in Conclude Xtra to Poast in Xact) to provide one-pass complete control," Kupatt says. Applied early to mid-post at 3 pints/acre (1_1/2 pints from each side of the jug) "is like applying a full shot of Storm and a double shot of Poast," he says. And if a grower faces some tougher weeds like larger teaweed, ragweed, velvetleaf and perennial broadleaf weeds, an additional spike of Basagran may be needed. Cost for the product is expected to be in the $18 to $20/acre range. For more information about any BASF product, call 800/669-1770.

Bayer. Domain is the new name for a soil-applied premix herbicide containing the same a.i. as the company's Axiom corn product (flufenacet and metribuzin), only in different ratios in this dry flowable product.

According to Scott Fleetwood, Bayer's soybean market manager, Domain can be applied at the preemergence stage at 9 to 16 oz./acre, which is the equivalent of .26 to .46 lb./acre, respectively, of Sencor 70DF.

"We have designed this dry flowable product to provide three to six weeks of early-season residual control of weeds that competitive herbicides miss, such as waterhemp, lambsquarter and velvetleaf. This gives growers a wider application window for their planned post application of Roundup, other transgenic program products or conventional soybean post herbicides," Fleetwood says.

He claims that at a use rate of 10 oz./acre, Domain's cost of $8 to $9/acre fits well into a grower's $18 to $20/acre weed-control program when followed by Roundup or Pursuit. For more information, call 800/842-8020.

Dow AgroSciences. Instead of introducing a new product that contains a premix of the company's First Rate herbicide with glyphosate, Dow decided to introduce a tankmix program and name it BestShot.

According to Tony Klemm, Dow's Midwest resource manager, enhanced weed control from BestShot plus its residual activity allow dealers the flexibility of helping growers adjust glyphosate rates based on infestation of key weeds, which may lead to using reduced rates.

"With only 3/10 oz. of FirstRate [$7/acre] plus a quart of glyphosate [$9 to $10/acre], this cost-effective tankmix programnot only offers residual control and greater effectiveness against morningglory, giant ragweed, larger velvetleaf and mare's tail, it also is extremely safe to soybeans," Klemm says.

Also new from Dow is Pendimax, a generic form of Prowl containing the same a.i. pendimethalin. "Pendimax and our other two new glyphosate products give us a broad-base soybean herbicide portfolio of economical choices that can be combined in many programs to fit individual growers' weed challenges," Klemm says.

This preplant grass control product does not require incorporation while controlling such grasses as foxtail, johnsongrass, fall panicum, barnyardgrass and crabgrass. Cost of the product at the 3-pint/acre rate is approximately $7.50/acre. For more information about any Dow product, call 800/208-4094.

Novartis. The company modified the premix ratio of an existing product and gave it a new identity - its latest EPA-approved herbicide called Boundary. "This premix contains the a.i. from Dual Magnum [S-metolachlor] and Sencor [metribuzin], which is similar to our Turbo herbicide," says Carroll Moseley, associate field crop manager for Novartis.

"But Turbo's metribuzin rate was too high for northern soils with high pH so we changed the premix ratio for Boundary to fit the majority of soybean soils across the U.S., while reducing crop rotation restrictions."

Boundary is being promoted as the soil-applied preemergence component, to be followed by a planned post application such as Roundup.

"With Boundary applied as the foundation product at 11/4 to 1_1/2 pints/acre followed by Roundup at 1_1/2 pints/acre, growers will have a competitively priced, good early-season weed-control program," Moseley says. "Boundary fills the critical weed-control gap from planting to post applications and provides a wider window for a post product."

A 11/4-pint rate is the equivalent of 0.98 lb. of S-metochlor and 0.23 lb. of metribuzin. Price of Boundary will range from $9 to $14/acre, depending on the rate used. For more information, call 800/334-9481.